From the Department of I Had No Idea This Ever Happened comes the racial controversy over the 1976 A.L. batting title. The part I knew about: the race came down to the last day between teammates George Brett and Hal McRae. In their last at bats, Brett hit an inside the park home run and McRae grounded out: title Brett.
The part I had no idea about: McRae believed there to be a racist conspiracy in play to throw the title to Brett:
After the game, McRae claimed that the Twins conspired to give Brett the title. Racism, McRae said, was the motivation . . . McRae’s claim centered on the argument that [Twins’ outfielder Steve] Brye was playing too deep
(at Mauch’s instruction) and that Brye likely hesitated on Brett’s
flyball, letting it fall . . . Brett also is quoted as saying, “I think maybe the Twins made me a
present of the batting championship, and if they did, I feel just as
bad about it as Hal does”.
All that came from a 1976 copy of the Sporting News unearthed by the Royals Review blog. The kicker: it was just in some ordinary story on page 31, unaccompanied by any commentary or anything. And nothing else ever really came of it.
Royals Review asks the question I had the moment I started reading it: can you imagine if that happened today. The commentary explosion would definitely be something to behold. Most of it would probably be pretty predictable, of course.
I think it would be worth it alone just to see what the K.C. Star’s Jason Whitlock would do. I can’t decide if he would go with the conspiracy theory angle (his Jeff George articles are classics of the genre), the straight up racism story, or if he would go with what is perhaps his greatest strength and take the really, really contrary angle and, I dunno, accuse McRae of hatching his own conspiracy to create the batting title conspiracy and then use the rest of the column to slam ESPN and the nation’s culture.